A trademark is used to distinguish the goods and services provided by one individual or company from those of another. One of several primary legal rights that a trademark owner has is the ability to stop other people from using a trademark that seems to be identical to or misleadingly similar to theirs. This means that a company cannot use a symbol or brand recognition that is identical to one that has been formally registered, especially if the products or services are related in terms of looks, sound, or purpose.
For instance, it is forbidden for a producer of carbonated beverages to use a name that sounds similar to Coke. In this article, we will analyse the concept of trademark infringement in light of a recent Starbucks case.
What is a trademark infringement?
Trademark infringement occurs when a third party uses a mark that is identical to or misleadingly similar to one that is already registered. If the violations are properly established, the court of appropriate jurisdiction may impose the following remedies
- Ban on using a trademark or an injunction against it;
- The designation of a local commissioner by the relevant court for the storage or sealing of records and accounts obtained unlawfully.
In addition- The court may even go so far as to issue injunctions and order the customs authorities to prevent the infringing material from being transported or disposed of in order to safeguard the owner’s proprietary interest;
A request for a temporary or ad interim ex-parte injunction can be made.
Introduction of Starbucks Corporation
Starbucks Corporation, an international American chain of coffee shops and roasting facilities with its own company headquarters in Seattle, Washington, is the plaintiff in this case. Starbucks Corporation operates in accordance with American legal standards. There are locations of the coffee shop chain all around the world. In 1971, its forebear opened its first retail outlet in Seattle, Washington, selling a variety of coffee, tea, and spices under the name Starbucks. Plaintiff was founded as a company in 1985 under the name Starbucks, and in 1987 it opened its first retail location outside of Seattle.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, also saw the establishment of a site. Under the registered trademarks of FRAPPUCCINO, Plaintiff markets its wildly well-liked hand-crafted blended cold drinks all over the world. It was also available in containers for purchase. In addition to the 30,626 Starbucks locations throughout the world in 80 countries and territories, this trademark is also used on bottled coffee drinks that are offered for sale in a number of supermarkets, retail stores, and wholesale establishments.
Plaintiff consented to organise a joint venture with “Tata Coffee Ltd.” For equity. In 2011, “Tata Starbucks Private Limited” was created in order to open commercial stores in India. The plaintiff later launched its first store in Mumbai in 2012 and acquired the trademark “Frappuccino” in India in a wide range of classes.
Starbucks complained to the High Court over the “LOL Café” in Jaipur, alleging that the company was misusing the “FRAPPUCCINO” trademark. The mark that the accused utilised was unmistakable and applied without cause. The complainant makes use of this Frappuccino mark with numerous beverage flavours.
History of the case
In 2018, the coffee franchise realised that the café in Jaipur was promoting the “BROWNIE Chips FRAPPUCCINO” without authorization. The menu of the café was also promoted on websites like Zomato and EazyDiner. The plaintiff asserted that during a phone conversation with the defendant’s director, the director agreed to never use the trademark “FRAPPUCCINO,” However, the claimant then discovered that the accused had maintained to utilise the trademark.
The Plaintiff has repeatedly sent notices to the Defendants protesting the aforementioned, but no response has been provided. The claimant asks for a decree of a permanent injunction forbidding the violators from using the claimant’s registered trademark improperly or falsely. The defendants were subsequently issued a summons in the matter, and the plaintiff was granted an ex parte ad interim injunction. The use of a specific Frappuccino mark by the defendants on any products supplied by LOL Café would be forbidden as a result.
The defendants, however, decide not to appear in court or provide a written statement. Both parties claimed in a subsequent appearance before the Joint Registrar that they anticipate the issue would likewise be resolved as a result of their compromise (Judicial). The Plaintiff sought summary judgment against the Defendants in a second application made in accordance with Order XIII-A of the Code of Civil Procedure (1908). In reaction to the abovementioned application, the defendants did not show up or file their response.
The American multinational corporation’s plea was being heard by Justice Navin Chawla’s single-judge bench. In that case, the Delhi High Court came to the conclusion that Starbucks has “a global reputation in the asserted mark.”
The High Court noted that Defendant engaged in trademark infringement by applying a mark that was confusingly similar to Plaintiff’s mark in an attempt to confuse the market.
The decision of the Delhi High court
The Delhi High Court upheld Starbucks’ claim that a café in Jaipur had violated its trademark by using the term “Frappuccino” and awarded the American coffee company a judgment of more than Rs 13 lakh. The plaintiff is entitled to reimbursement for court costs, the judge further declares. A document titled “Advocate Fee Certificate” that details the sum of Rs 13,38,917.85 that the attorney charged as legal fees have also been provided by the plaintiff in addition to paying the court fee should be paid by the defendant’s owner.
It’s fascinating and useful to learn about trademark infringement litigation involving well-known corporations. Use the above-explained Starbucks case as a reference before registering your trademark if you intend to make absolutely sure that it’s adequately protected against infringement.
- Harsha Asnani (May 26, 2016 ) What Is Infringement Of Trademark available at https://blog.ipleaders.in/what-is-infringement-of-trademark/
- Priyanshi Aggarwal( Nov 22, 2022)HC rules in favour of Starbucks in a trademark infringement suit over “Brownie Chips Frappuccino” [Read Judgment] available at https://www.latestlaws.com/case-analysis/hc-rules-in-favour-of-starbucks-in-a-trademark-infringement-suit-over-brownie-chips-frappuccino-read-judgment-192186
- Express News Service (November 23, 2022 10:26:17 am)‘Frappuccino a Starbucks trademark’: Delhi HC rules against Jaipur-based café available at https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/starbucks-vs-lol-cafe-delhi-hc-awards-litigation-costs-13-lakh-starbucks-jaipur-cafe-infringing-trademark-8284292/